Today is my stop on tour with Jan Edwards and her new wartime novel Winter Downs, the first in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series.
Jan very kindly answered all my, as usual, quite inquisitive questions, with some very interesting answers, so I do hope you all enjoy…
Hi Jan and welcome to Swirl and Thread. I am delighted to be on tour with you today as we discuss your new novel, Winter Downs, as well as finding out a little more about what makes you tick.
Before we get into the writing aspect of your life, may I enquire about your involvement in Reiki. I was intrigued to read that you are a Master Teacher as well as been a Meditational Healer? Could you please tell us a little about this?
Reiki and Meditational Healing is something that chose me rather than the other way around. Meditation is something I have indulged in for many years but I needed help with pain management that did not involved drugs, which sent me to sleep half the day. Various therapies proved to help a great deal and going from ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ was a logical progression.
I also have some experience in herbalism but would not practice it without going for the medical degree. As the saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It is far too easy to mistakenly poison someone – though that knowledge can come in handy as a writer of crime and horror.
Born in Sussex, you are I see, like myself, of Celtic origin. Whereabouts is your family from originally?
Mother was Welsh. Her family came from Flintshire, though she herself was born and raised in the Glamorgan. Pop is descended from the Reiver clan of Grahams. He was born in Haltwhistle, hard up in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall.
I was born in Sussex and spent most of my younger years there, not far from Billingshurst. My aunt and uncle worked at Saddlescombe Farm (which includes Devils Dyke). When I wrote Winter Downs it is that terrain that I had in mind. Saddlscombe is now a National Trust property. My Aunt lived in the RH of the cottages in the background of this photo.
A master locksmith, a motorcycle seller with many other strings to your ‘working’ bow, when did writing become your true passion and how did the decision come about to invest so much time in it?
I honestly can’t recall not writing fiction. We lived in a very rural area. Even the nearest mobile library stop was three miles away. I had a lot of convalescence time and once I’d read the books on my shelves a zillion times writing my own was the natural step to take.
Why do I invest so much time in it still?
Writers I talk to seem to give the same reason. Some equate it with the imperative of an ancient fireside bard and others with a need to share the movie show running through their brain, but either way it’s that absolute compulsion to commit those stories to paper (or screen).
Winter Downs is a WW2 crime drama. What is it about and where did the inspiration for the novel come from?
Winter Downs had many and various roots and I could never pinpoint one of the as the finite inspiration. I have always loved reading crime fiction but writing for Sherlock Holmes anthologies was, undoubtedly, my gateway into becoming a hardened crime writer.
The many relics of WW2 invasion defences littering the South Downs, along with a predilection for Golden Age crime, influenced the setting.
The promoting of a novel must be quite an exhausting prospect. What exactly is involved?
Its terrifying! Writing a book is a doddle against the agonies of promotionals.
I have been writing for a very long time and most of my published work, and my writing network, has been in fantasy and horror.
Sherlock Holmes is often a part of that world, as is crime so obviously there is some cross-over between the bloggers and reviewers of horror and crime, but that only goes so far. It soon became clear to me that for Winter Downs I was almost starting from scratch and it has been what folks call a ‘steep’ learning curve. I find it hard to approach people I know for favours. Approaching strangers has been nerve wracking. Fortunately the vary majority of people in the crime arena are very welcoming and inclusive.
I await the reviews with finger nails gnawed up to the elbows.
You write across such a spectrum – crime, horror, pulp, weird fiction, main stream and urban fantasy. How do you manage to juggle so many different genres?
Ooh – that is a tough one. I read extensively across the genres so writing across them was something I did by default.
As a bookseller in the 1960/70s I can only recall SF/Horror having a section of its own. By the 1990s even contemporary fiction was subdivided: classics; erotica; LBGT; womens’; romance; cult; literary. There are other but you get the picture. I can see why this is, but when readers zoom in on their ‘section’ – in bricks and mortar or online outlets – that intriguing title or stunning cover in a separated shelf will never cross their line of vision, and the chance of their reading outside their usual comfort zone is diminished. Some bookshops are returning to all-embracing fiction shelves. It will be interesting to see how that works out.
Crossing genres did not enter my head when I wrote Winter Downs. I suspect it would have been far easier to have a single genre when it came to the promotionals – but where would the fun be in that?
I’ve never interviewed a ghost writer before!! What exactly is involved from your perspective and is it a difficult thing to do?
Contracted privacy clauses. The main rule about ghost writing club is not to talk about ghost writing club. (But I will say that in many ways it’s tougher than writing my own.)
Jan I see you are also very involved in workshops and editing services for writers in association with The Alchemy Press. Is this an area you enjoy and how can people contact you to avail of these services?
Workshops are a lot of fun, and I do enjoy providing writers with tips and inspiration. I also love editing, which is far harder in many ways but enables me to work far more closely with some fabulous writers, and that is never a bad thing.
Alchemy editorial service can be found at https://alchemypress.wordpress.com/ We can take on manuscripts for content and/or line edits in most genres.
6 x 6……what is this concept and how are you involved with it?
My good friend Misha Herwin and I approached various local libraries to books reading events for our own work and found that – due to the cuts in funding and the shortened opening hours – events for single author events were getting harder to stage. And whilst poets had many opportunities with open mike events there were few in the Stoke-on-Trent area for the writers of prose. City Central Library were happy to allow us a trial period of four evenings to redress that and 6X6 was born.
As the name suggests our evenings (which are free!) allow each of 6 writers a maximum of 6 minutes or reading to the gathered audience. We are now in a our second year and always open to hearing from Midlands writers wanting to showcase their work.
For full details go to https://6x6writingcafe.wordpress.com/
Being such a very busy lady Jan, do you get time to read any books? What are you reading currently?
I am desperately behind with my reading at the moment. I have a ‘to read’ bookcase because the piles by the bed kept falling over.
Recently read titles: Hekla’s Children by James Brogden, Kate Shackleton’s Death of and Average Reader and The Third Sin by Aline Templeton.
About to be read Strangers by Paul Finch. But that could take a while.
The launch of Winter Downs is coinciding with a house move and time is short!
Thank you so much Jan for such an intriguing Q & A. I wish you all the very best with the launch of Winter Downs and with everything else that you are involved with.
If you wish to find out more about Jan Edwards, you will see attached a bio with links etc., as well as additional information on Winter Downs.
In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.
Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?
Winter Downs is first in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series.
Purchase Link ~ Winter Downs
Meet Jan Edwards:
Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening.
She is a practising Reiki Master.
She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Press, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.
Website/Blog ~ https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/
Twitter ~ @Jancoledwards